I recently read an feature piece on Al-Jazeera’s website about the rise of Christianity in China. The article briefly explored the context out of which this increase in Christianity arose. One of the reasons for this increase is political. The article quotes Mark Shan, a spokesperson for China Aid, “The Cultural Revolution disillusioned Chinese people and the brainwashing atheist education made people thirsty [for] spirituality.” Another reason had to do more of a cultural shift in China’s recent years. “Some believe that Christianity could help fill a moral void in an increasingly self-centred, materialistic and corrupt society, as well as helping to meet the demand for social services.” So, assuming these two stimuli are indeed influencing people to turn towards Christianity, one could say that this shift is reactionary. It seems as though there is a timeless current in the human spirit, one that will always desire to express ones autonomy. While the means by which we do so may vary, the reasoning can all be linked. I’ve been reading over Camus’ essay, “The Rebel” again because I’m interested in rebellion in relation to Christianity. Although, to understand that, one would have to start at a more general level–rebellion in relation to humanity. Camus states, “Rebellion, thought apparently negative, since it creates nothing, is profoundly positive in that it reveals the part of man which must always be defended.” Rebellion is a claim on the whole of humanity before it is a claim on any specific injustice.
So to back up, what does this rise of Christianity in China mean? Does it point to the power of Christ? No, it points to the spirit of a general humanity. If a person has absolute freedom, then I would imagine that the only thing he could rebel against is himself. Although, if a person is denied freedom to express him or herself freely, then history has shown that there is a breaking point at which rebellion is a necessary and predictable result. So whether it be freedom to not worship a God, or a freedom to worship a God, we want it all, and will react accordingly. So, while agnostics and atheists in America fight for liberation from God (where Christians have worshipped freely since the countries birth), citizens in China are starting to fight for liberty from atheism which has been their rule since the revolution. People will always react to oppression, we’re so predictable that way.
Of course, freedom to worship is not veritable freedom. Do we want complete freedom? Dostoevsky says no, Sartre says it is a condemnation, Kierkegaard likens it to dizziness. I would venture to say that we don’t know what we want, and because of that, our loud brash arrogant claims about what we deserve arise not from an awareness of the totality, or meaning, of existence, but merely point to the current conditions out of which those cries arise, and those conditions are always “current” in that they are never static. Although, it is not to say that our “demands” are unjustified, but the ceiling is low. I become skeptical when those demands become grandiose and poetic. In my compartmentalized and conditioned existence, I want freedom only up to a point. The freedom I ask for is paltry, and it is relative to my condition, but not necessarily unwarranted.
In relation to that existential freedom, the freedom Dostoevsky says none of us truly desire, the freedom Sartre says we are condemned to, the freedom Kierkegaard claims is dizziness–even amongst that small trio of influential thinkers, one can gather that freedom is a challenging idea. The word “freedom” as appropriated by propaganda is another way of swearing allegiance to another, which is a denial of freedom. None of us have ever know true freedom, we are all hinged to something. As Bob Dylan sang during his controversial gospel phase, “you gotta serve somebody.” If not, you serve yourself, and who among us has the audacity to claim a well functioning self-autonomy; one that is understood and reigned in. We will ourselves in a way that is entirely human, and humanity, while showing the ability to pull together only in necessity and desperation, rarely serves our benefit when un-challenged. Our existence, when untethered by duty to family, work, or entertainment, is a clumsy mess of pathetic appeals, no matter how artful we are. Freedom is entirely foreign. What do I know of freedom? I’ve never had it, nor have I desired it. I have merely desired free time. When have our true thoughts ever been liberated?